Word of the Day Eser

If you want your Hebrew to be a perfect 10, take note of this numerical word, which in colloquial Hebrew means something is pretty great.

Shoshana Kordova
Shoshana Kordova
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Is Channel 10's number up?
Is Channel 10's number up?Credit: Haaretz
Shoshana Kordova
Shoshana Kordova

In a roundup of YouTube hits that was published before that other new year (the Jewish one), a Ynet article presented a Top 10 list whose headline began "Haya eser." While this literally means "It was 10," eser in colloquial Hebrew also means "great" or one of its many slang equivalents.

Though in casual speech it's not usually intended as a pun, eser tends to take on a double meaning when it makes an appearance in the press, as with an article from last month about Maccabi Haifa's 1:0 soccer victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv in a game that garnered 10 percent of television viewers. Its headline, too, began "It was eser."

And then there's the flip side. A column arguing that the perpetually cash-strapped television station Channel 10 hasn't justified its existence was, naturally, entitled "Lo haya eser" ("It wasn't eser"). David Letterman, watch out: The Hebrew language has your number.

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